This article was written by one of our Bottle and Heels writers.

It’s always fascinating to watch female pop stars’ take on ‘the f-word’ and how they handle the loaded question. Amidst the Dior, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen tulle, lace, and sequins, since the ’90s, there has always been one pushy paparazzo asking leading ladies whether they were feminists.

Surely, these women at the apex of their careers owe a little to a movement dedicated to equality for both sexes, whether it be equal pay, being treated respectfully within whichever profession they chose, and having control over their own bodies? Surprisingly, the red carpet reporters revealed that not even celebrities are entirely comfortable with the term, despite embodying the values of feminism in their own success, or art.

It begs the question, why is feminism an ‘f-word’ and can women be feminists despite disliking the label?

Why People Are Reluctant To Identify As Feminist 

In popular culture, the political sphere, and the ordinary lives of women, the term “feminism” became corralled into an ugly little box whereby being for the rights of women automatically classified them as a man-hating, butch lesbian. Not only was the association homophobic, but being for women did not mean being against men. Even in contemporary times, women are reluctant to proudly brandish the feminist flag for fear of facing stigma, or alienating their public, fans, and others who buy their albums or products.

Unfortunately, dragging the word feminism through the dirt, was a calculated move that set third-wave feminism back, but the beauty is that feminism will exist as long as women exist, even if it goes by other names.

A good example of someone who had to face this unfair paradox was Kelly Clarkson. First, it is unfair to harass our female artists about whether or not they are feminists because no one is going around asking men whether they believe men desire equal opportunities and pay, since they hold the power in this sociopolitical structure. That aside, Kelly Clarkson is known for pop anthems about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and moving on. The songs remind one of her own career, where she went from nowhere to the charts on the merits of her own talent. Her hit songs call out men who, presumably, caused her pain or anguish. Yet, despite these unknown jerks, the narrative she sings is about overcoming the psychological baggage.

However, paradoxically, Clarkson was once asked whether she was a feminist. According to HuffPo, she said, “‘No, I wouldn’t say feminist […] that’s too strong.'” Whether or not Clarkson identifies as a feminist, her art’s content clearly proves that she is a feminist. Lyrically, she sings about the unique struggles of how men and women relate and explicitly favors documenting women’s strength in these conflicts. She’s inherently a feminist, though she does not like the descriptor.

Why The Left Doesn’t Embrace The Feminist Catchall 

On the other side of the equation, the women on the left side of the spectrum say they prefer the term “humanist.” Women like Katy Perry (who volunteered for the Clinton campaign), Susan Sheridan (whose roles dynamically portray women), and SJP (who proved that women could choose their partners, fates, and the right pair of Jimmy Choos) who all say they’re humanists, or believe in the strength of women. Their reason for preferring the term humanist is that it is a more updated form of the word “feminist,” and political in its own way.

It shows that being a believer in the rights of women is really being in support of human rights because one cannot say they care about humankind without inherently recognizing that a large portion of this equation deserves being treated the same as the rest of the bunch.

A Feminist By Any Other Name

What these women exemplify about feminism is that as long as women exist, produce art, and continue propelling forward in the entertainment industry and far beyond, it doesn’t matter what they call themselves. They believe in themselves and don’t have to advocate a movement. While some women say they aren’t feminists, it doesn’t mean that their lives and the natural things one strives for, or their ambitions, belie the cause. Women’s life trajectories are feminist in nature, whether they like labeling it as such, or not.